No industry has seen as much rapid change as the publishing industry since the turn of the century. The largest online bookstore in 1999 is now the largest online ebook store – and physical bookstores are endangered. Just this month SELF magazine has joined a growing trend of magazines leaving the physical realm for the electronic completely.
A few weeks ago we brought together prominent voices in publishing to discuss industry trends.
Here’s what we learned:
The outcomes have not changed. Writing is what activates and creates communities and cultures. It won’t go away. It will just change. You write to sell what you’re writing or sell something with it. How that’s been achieved that has changed over time. As Lani Rosales, COO of The American Genius and The Real Daily, put it “evolving is part of what being a writer is, your thoughts evolve, formats evolve, ways of conveying those thoughts evolve.”
Google likes words but words aren’t what hook most users Michael Svatek is the CEO of Rivet a transformative content company creating engaging content from users to brands and he shared some data-backed insights. “Google likes words”, Michael said, written content is the best way to get discovered, but hooks like visual and audio content are what keep people engaged. There’s a whole new set of media being created by those who used to be in the consumer role and that gives authors a vast set of complementary content to use. Use it.
“Where you see a spike in the data in terms of performance are those brands that are doing something different… people that are using audio as a format are spiking. As a writer should you also get potentially good at narrating… think of that as a value add,” Michael continued. As an author adding additional technical and engaging skillsets can be a huge value to readers. How can you add engaging visual, auditory, emotional content to your pieces? How can you keep people hooked?
You will be paid on performance. It was a nearly universal belief among both our attendees and our panelists that publishing is or soon will be a gig economy. (And it may be the case that everything is transitioning to a gig economy.) This means journalistic performance will be key and that all the value you can bring can be monetized. Arturo Coto, CEO of XRoad Consulting with Noonday Collection, said that the existing audience of partner content creators was key to their engagement with the brand. Authors that brands work with can serve to inform the brand’s view of its target market. How do you take full advantage of this?
Know your market. A recurring theme of the evening was the importance of staying disciplined and true to a specific market and becoming an expert in that market. You have to know your personal brand and stay true to it. Build an audience by tailoring your pitch to them and learn how to use data to track your success. Then you can find companies, journals and more jobs that will pay you to connect with that audience and real value will be built.
Use the gig economy. About midway through the discussion Lani pointed to a great way to use part time work as a norm to your advantage. Specialize and network. Build your audience and then find someone to sell you. Remember that you’re not the only one looking for work and opportunity and if you can develop the skill as a prolific content producer with a good audience you can find someone else to sell that.
Arturo and Lani hammered hard on the point that success requires dedication and a strong pitch to your audience and to your employers. Focus on quality and continuity in your pitch to your readers and success will follow. There is no easy road and the more data and complementary skills you can gain will be highly valuable. I want to hammer that point home. There is no easy road to long term success. Don’t put out low quality for the sake of pageviews – build a sustainable audience through consistent hard work and focus. That is how you build reputation and revenue.
So… What Now?
What our panel recommended publishers do next – what they would do tomorrow – in no particular order here are there answers:
- Audit yourself. Know where you fit, who your audience is, what skillsets you have and what skillsets you need.
- Recognize that everything is temporary
- Get uncomfortable
- Write compelling content and supplement that with audio and visual content. Use data.
- Understand your pitch and how to sell yourself. Then network for partners, employers and readers.
- Use social media and look how others who are being successful are building their movement. Be platform agnostic to reach the most people.
- Write your own story. As an author your compelling story needs to come through in your writing and in your pitch to employers and partners.
*Thank you to Michael Svatek, Lani Rosales, David Schreiber and Arturo Coto for participating on this panel. Thank you to the audience for the excellent questions and discussions after the event. Also big thanks to WP Engine, Sellerant and Frontburner Marketing, and Infinite Fountain for making this all happen.
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